Is it rude to wear headphones around the office?

I don't mean when I'm sitting at my desk, but when I'm:

  • Walking in the hallways to the bathroom/kitchen/printer (people often say hi, and strike up conversations around this, and would prefer not to discourage that too much).
  • Sitting at my desk and somebody comes and talks to me.
  • When I go to somebody else's desk to ask something of them.

Context: I'm in New Zealand, but you can probably answer the question more generally than that. I work in an office environment working as a programmer, in a non-programming business. The office I work in has a mix of younger generation and older baby boomers. I fall under the former. I'm also slightly autistic so have difficulty reading social cues.

I recently bought a pair of Google Buds and they are explicitly designed to not be noise cancelling, so as long as I have them muted, I can hear and have conversations as per normal. They are also somewhat difficult to take out, so I would prefer to leave them in most of the time as taking them in and out of ears every 20 minutes or so hurts my ears and is a bit fiddly.

Question: In what office based situations is it considered rude to have headphones on?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because whether something is "rude" or not is highly subjective and it's impossible to know what the answer is. Every person and workplace will have a different answer. Try reframing your question to avoid asking whether it's rude or not but, perhaps, "how to do this without missing out on important conversations" or (if you've had people complain) "How to explain why I wear headphones in the office". – Catija May 15 '18 at 22:13
  • It's worth noting that list-style questions are also not a good fit for the SE format. The potential number of answers is limitless and (again) very much subjective. – Catija May 15 '18 at 22:27
  • There is a Workplace SE that might help you get some answers on whether or not it's common for workplaces in your culture or maybe how you can maintain proper workplace etiquette in regard to headphone usage. – Clay07g May 15 '18 at 22:31

While I think this answer could vary with each office, geographic region and group of workers, I would find this akin to someone trying to have a serious business-related conversation with me while they are wearing dark sunglasses and I am not.

It would make me uncomfortable because I can't tell for sure that their focus is on me while we are talking.

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